[THROWBACK POP] After more than a decade together, Blue Skies for Black Hearts is nothing if not consistent. The band's newest effort follows closely in the footsteps of its last full-length, Embracing the Modern Age, sticking to the simple, hook-laden throwback pop frontman Pat Kearns first established with the project in 2002. A heavy nod to power pop circa the British Invasion, the 12 tracks on Blue Skies for Black Hearts are heavy on easy melodies and undemanding lyrics, but the five-piece manages to toss in a few surprises, too. "Love Scenes" throws a fun doo-wop swing into the mix, flecked with dreamy group "oohs" and a classic, repetitive guitar hook that makes up for the puppy-love lyrics. "You Gotta Quit Kickin' My Dog" moves the album into heavier rock territory, big on kick drum, fuzzy keys, guitar arpeggios and a sharper edge to Kearn's normally clean, restrained vocals. Blue Skies for Black Hearts does what it was made to do, offering clean, friendly tunes that don't give off the vibe of trying too hard. The clean sound can perhaps be attributed to Kearns' gig as a producer—his résumé includes Exploding Hearts and Son of Huns—but most likely it has more to do with the musicians and their ability to dress up basic, catchy pop hooks ever so slightly, allowing them to remain, well, simply catchy.
SEE IT: Blue Skies for Black Hearts plays Doug Fir Lounge, 830 E Burnside St., with Spirit Lake and Young Vienna, on Wednesday, July 9. 9 pm. $8 advance, $10 day of show. 21+.